By Craig Gabriel

That radiant smile was there for all to see. The familiar pose with the trophy was on show. Serena Williams was pretty happy with herself and why shouldn’t she be. Winning the Mutua Madrid Open 6-1, 6-4 over Maria Sharapova brought her a few treasures along the way.

She said: “Every time I play I really relish it more, and every time I get out there … I feel like, Honestly, Serena, when are you going to get tired?  I don’t know.

“I feel like every moment that I play ‑ I don’t know if it’s because of what I went through ‑ I just feel like I’m so fortunate to be out there and healthy and to have an opportunity to play something, a sport, and be really good at it.”

The championship in the Spanish capital gave Serena her 50th career title, a tour leading fourth title for 2013 and she holds on to the world No.1 ranking. All in all it was a pretty good day in the Madrid sunshine. She is the only active player with 50 titles and the tenth all-time to achieve that.

Madrid was also her seventh career clay title which puts her third among active players and since the start of last year’s clay court season Serena is 28-1 on clay. She is the first player to successfully defend the Madrid title and amazingly it’s her first red clay title since winning Roland Garros in 2002 (Madrid has blue clay last year) … could it be an omen.

“It feels good,” said Serena, smiling. “I don’t know how many more I can win.  Like I say every day, who knows if I’ll ever win another title?  I just want to live the moment and the dream every chance I get. Hopefully I can just keep it going.”

Winning Madrid on a surface she feels is probably most like Roland Garros, the year’s next major and barely two weeks away, is a very good start in the right direction and she feels good about the way things are.

This was Serena’s 12th straight win over Maria and the head to head now stands at 13-2.

In the first set Serena dominated the match but then Sharapova started to play better in the second and Serena had to adjust her own game to counteract Sharapova, especially after missing an important point in the first game of the second set.

“I’ve played her several times,” added Serena. “I just tried to focus really on what I was doing.  I don’t know if her start was shaky. I felt that I played good in the first few games.      But playing such a great athlete and great tennis player like Maria, you have to come out and play good.  So I had no other choice.”

Rome, the Eternal City, is the next stop and then it’s on to Paris and the French Open which she sees as “the ultimate challenge”.

“Whether I reach it, I don’t know (but) I’m not going to put that pressure on me. I wanted to last year and I didn’t get it.  So this year I’m just looking forward to Rome, and then after that Roland Garros, and see what happens,” she said.